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    Value of a clear desk: sequencing decisions when decision capacity is limited

    Heyes, A. and Kapur, Sandeep (2018) Value of a clear desk: sequencing decisions when decision capacity is limited. Working Paper. Department of Economics, Mathematics and Statistics, London, UK. (Submitted)

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    Postponing a decision may allow a better decision later. However, depending on what else comes up, there may never be a moment when it makes sense to come back to a postponed decision, leaving potential gains unrealized. We develop a model of an agent with limited decision-making capacity who faces a sequence of decisions that vary stochastically in their importance and improvability. In each period he can either act on the newly-arrived opportunity or return to one carried from earlier. The prospect of future congestion in decisions generates an incentive to make prompt decisions, to “keep a clear desk”. The strength of that imperative is: (1) increasing in the expected importance of future opportunities but decreasing in the dispersion of their importance; (2) decreasing in the expected improvability of future opportunities, but ambiguously influenced by the dispersion of that improvability. The analysis illuminates some decision practices that would otherwise be hard to rationalize. Multiple equilibria in some cases rationalize persistently different behaviour by two agents facing (almost) identical sequences of choices. The setting allows for a generalization of the concept of option value to congested decision environments and, by accounting for a plausible cost to postponement of action, offers a counter-force to the precautionary principle.


    Item Type: Monograph (Working Paper)
    Additional Information: BWPEF 1813
    Keyword(s) / Subject(s): Dynamic decision-making, limited attention, organizational bandwidth; committees, precautionary principle, option value
    School: School of Business, Economics & Informatics > Economics, Mathematics and Statistics
    Research Centres and Institutes: Innovation Management Research, Birkbeck Centre for
    Depositing User: Sandeep Kapur
    Date Deposited: 09 Jan 2019 15:04
    Last Modified: 19 Jun 2021 05:49


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